Netanyahu Walks The Walk . . .

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JERUSALEM: But does he talk the talk? Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu today shook hands with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a man he used to deride as a terrorist and murderer. In their first meeting, the two men discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, amid rumors that the United States demanded the meeting as a prerequisite for Netanyahu's trip to the United States next week. Although the two leaders settled none of the issues troubling the peace process, they did make unspecific, encouraging statements to the press. While Netanyahu praised the goal of assuring the "security and well being of Israelis and Palestinians alike," Arafat lauded the "peace of the brave." TIME's Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer notes that since Netanyahu has already made it clear he has no intention of pursuing the peace process the way his predecessors did, it is unsurprising that Israelis refused to make meaningful concessions in the meeting. "The results of the meeting fall far short of a return to a peace process that was slow moving even before Netanyahu's government took over," Beyer says. "From Netanyahu's point of view, considering his psychology and previous pronouncements, sitting down with Arafat is a huge step, but from the standpoint of the region, the fuss over the meeting can't be seen as anything but a step backwards. For an Israeli Prime Minister to see talks with a Palestinian leader as a big deal is ridiculous. The peace talks are so far behind where they were when Netanyahu took over, that seeing this meeting as anything but a step backwards is a mistake." --Terence Nelan